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by ChiTeen Lit Fest

Stone Soup

By Emily Schultz

Squirrels burst forth from cedar caverns
Carved cuckoo clock models of
Creatures that were wild once
Now petrified in trimmed trees
Nearly domesticated by the twice-daily patter of peanuts on cement
But still too hungry to sit still.

Heirloom memory of starvation drives impulse
Like clockwork minute hands minute claws
Scrape shallow dips between blades of grass that die from the top down.
The neighbors will toss peanuts all winter
But for squirrels survival
Still feels conditional
Dependent on solid matter – doesn’t matter what
Matter as long as it fills the holes.

So squirrels stuff half-dug hiding spots
With white stones bought in fifty-pound bags
Carried home and dumped out for decoration.
They scrabble against the earth
Until minute claws bury impulse.
Heirloom memory of starvation still sticks
Halfway up from the dirt-
Altar to hungry mothers constructed in preparation for winter feast.

In spring we dig for dandelions
Memories of last summer’s weeds grown too tall in
Our minds, our hands
Wield metal claws
We stab at balls of roots and come up short against stone.
White dust coats fingertips like powdered sugar,
Clinging,
Marking us for our crimes until
The next time we wash our hands.

We throw stones back in buckets while
Squirrels keep watch from cedar caverns, bursting
With pride to welcome thieves come for easy pickings.
We steal imaginary sustenance
Laid before us by squirrels still fat from winter
And dump it back out to be buried again next year.

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Writer of the Week: Emily Schultz